Getting up with Dirk-Jan Kluft: Facilitate living in monofunctional areas

Interview with: Mattijs Kaak for Vastgoed Journaal

Coffee, tea or ….?

It varies, but at the moment I usually eat two crackers, one with jam or roast beef and one with cheese. I used to eat a very different breakfast, but then I also used to be 30 kilograms heavier.

Who are you and what does your company do?

I have been at Van Rossum for my entire working life and I am now partner and director there. The company has been around since 1953 and as of 1 January of this year, it is called Van Rossum Raadgevende Ingenieurs (Van Rossum Advisory Engineers). We started in social housing but developed into an all-round advisor for all sorts of projects. We know Amsterdam very well, do a lot of redevelopment and monumental projects. We work across borders more and more often as well. It is a riveting but intense profession; people say architects live longer than structural engineers.

Describe your ideal working environment.

At our new office, we divided the company so that we are all on the same layer, making for short lines which we need for our type of work. I can close the door to my office if I need to for work purposes, which everyone understands. The building has multiple owners which are also all located in the building – companies each with their own perspectives which can be very inspiring.

Does your company deal with lack of occupancy?

We even have some unused square footage in our own building, which we are hastily trying to solve with our homeowner association. In terms of our clients, we are mainly confronted with inner-city lack of occupancy in existing, often monumental buildings which no longer have their original function.

What do you yourselves do to combat lack of occupancy?

When buildings lose their original function, transformation is often the right path to take. In doing so, it is essential to take a good look at which new function would fit the building, how it can be implemented and of course how the new function can have the right impact on its surroundings. A good transformation can give the surrounding buildings as well as city experience a boost.

What would you say is an example of a successful upgrade?

The Pronam projects are true examples of daring redevelopment with a large impact on surroundings. That goes for Atlas Arena in South-East Amsterdam as well as the Ramada Hotel on the A10 ring too. And that is why I am very curious as to how their next project Rivierstaete will turn out.

Which building would you like to see taken on for redevelopment?

I would love to see someone facilitate living in a monofunctional area. In South-East and Sloterdijk, they have been looking for the right approach to such an undertaking, but have yet to succeed. But the Campus in South Diemen has proven that it is in fact possible, and that is not quite an obvious location. Many new movements start with students, after which the rest follows, and I hope someone will dare to take that on soon.

Is sustainability important to your organisation?

Sustainability has made structural engineers more aware in handling materials, and has enabled them to apply material where it will be used to its full potential, thus leading to minimal costs. You can see this in the positioning support beams and placing of lift shafts. The body of the TNT building is a good example. This is practical sustainability, which ultimately gets a major yield and with which we can set ourselves apart.

Who is your favourite designer?

Calatrava’s early years were great, in which he was an artist, structural engineer and architect in one. His principle to design with a rough skeleton as a basis produced many interesting designs. Unfortunately, his star has fallen somewhat.

What question would you want to ask the next real estate professional?

Sustainability often means renovating installations but it is so much more; what are the opportunities?

You also received the following question from Bas van Holten van Merin. What have you learned from redevelopment and how can we apply these lessons to really improve the new developments we are still working on?

The focus used to be on development at the lowest possible cost, which was at the expense of the potential and possibilities buildings have. Now, we build more solid structures and think about flexibility, keeping in mind the future alternative uses of the object. This also led to new techniques such as adhesive joints and new mortar techniques that can be used.